759   27/02/2016

Lagos - Here I come!

As I board the plane to Lagos I can feel my anxiety bubbling over a drink of Perrier.

How can you go to Nigeria?

Please don’t eat or drink anywhere other than the hotel.

Don’t trust anyone!

I got advice from people I knew, people I didn’t know, from the guy who did my visa, from my housekeeper, from my friends and my better half!  Everyone was aghast that I had taken up a feng shui job in Nigeria and I was actually going there.

In spite of so much opposition, I decided to take up this project. The money was not that good but I dig complicated projects. There were large chemical factories that were having some issues and who better to sort it out than yours truly! I had met my clients in Oman where we had accidently bumped into each other in the resort where I was doing work. They were intrigued to find a Gujarati woman sitting alone at the bar having vegetarian sushi by herself. So we got talking and when I mentioned to them that I was a feng shui consultant specializing in hotels and big projects, they were amazed. So far the word feng shui has been used so often and misrepresented so much that most people don’t know what it is and how powerful it is. To cut a long story short we exchanged details and they contacted me few months on to see if I was willing to visit Lagos to help them sort out all their properties. And so it all began.

I was keen to go to a country that I knew very little about. Its exploring and traveling that always keeps me going. How bad can it be? If I survived years of living in Hong Kong among the Cantonese people, I can just about survive anywhere!

I look around at the boarding gate in hope of being intimidated by hoards of Nigerians. But instead, Nigerians are outnumbered by my own kind! I feel my better half’s prophecy about Indians are taking over the world officially seems to be coming true. I see Sindhis everywhere. Well those of you who don’t know who they are let me explain. Indians who originally came from Sindh were knows as Sindhis.  An enterprising lot born to do business and can easily sell umbrellas to Arabs. Sindhis like my Gujarati fellows, are found everywhere - I mean everywhere. Years ago I had been on a Caribbean cruise where we had docked on a remote island for a bit. The whole island could be walked around in 20 minutes. Believe it or not, all souvenir shops were owned by Sindhis!!! Since then I have bumped into them in Lebanon, Egypt, Philippines, Kazakhstan, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Japan, Korea, Jakarta, New York, Canada, Surabaya……….

Flight has a good mix of Westerners, Indians and Nigerians. As I get comfortable in my seat, a smiling cabin crew pops up with a glass of Juice to calm my nerves down. Slowly as I get comfortable, I begin to realise as to how silly I have been. This seems like any other flight; the passengers around me are behaving just as they would behave anywhere.

The fun begins when we land at the airport. We keep taxing for what seems like an eternity and it takes half an hour to the open the door. As I step out I am hit by smell of petrol and rubber. The air bridge is made up of chopped rubber pieces stuck together. I feel like I am walking into a MADMAX movie. The airport is run down and old. The ceiling has broken cables hanging that look like snakes, the windowpanes have not been washed in years and the word ventilation has disappeared from the dictionary all together. I see Nigerians walking around in their colourful attire with airport security badges hanging around their neck. I follow hundreds of people into narrow walkways as we are huddled for space. I can smell sweat, perfumes, curry, bread, rubber, chili – all smells blend into one weird ball of scent that can only be termed as Lagos.

We all stop at what looks like a health check counter. The light is low. 4 tables are covered in plastic and few officers are walking around with what looks like a white plastic pistol in their hands. It feels more like an interrogation room. I wait for my turn and am pushed ahead in front of an intimidating Nigerian lady who is wearing a saffron dress. She sticks the while pistol at my forehead to measure my temperature. “Vaccine booklet?” I hand over the book that shows that I am ready combat yellow fever in case a mosquito takes a fancy to my sweet Gujarati blood.

 “ You can’t enter Lagos. You should have taken the vaccination 20 days ago. Why did you take it yesterday?”  I want to explain to her the mess up of Dubai Health Authority and how I went on Dubai sightseeing tour for 5 hours trying to find a clinic that would be willing to protect me from a Nigerian mosquito.

But instead I try to reason with her that I could only get a vaccine once my visa was issued and that was not so long ago. We go back and forth, as if we are haggling for a price of potato in the vegetable market. And then she whispers in my ears, “ Give me something and I will let you go!”

Now I feel relieved. This I can deal with. People are same everywhere. I now get into full form and start negotiating and I am certain that I wont pay anything and yet she will let me go. She stands her ground and I stand mine. And then I decide to pull Milton Erickson on her. I look into her eyes and tell her in a sad tone, “ Its my first time here. And this is what you want me to remember?” She stares at me in disbelief and then I see something change in her eyes as she tells me, “ welcome to Nigeria. Have a nice time.”

I walk out of there with a big smile. No one gets money out of a Gujarati, not even in Nigeria!


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